Thursday, August 21, 2008

Isaac Newton-- Albert Einstein-- George Washington

Did You Know This?

These amazing people were suspected of having Aspergers Syndrome Disorder:

Albert Einstein - could not speak fluently until the age of 9, his parents thought that he might be mentally retarded. His lectures were scattered , he would loose train of thought often. Even Einstein wore green slippers with flowers on them when he went to work (talk about quirky!!!).

Isaac Newton - dropped out of school when he was a teen.

George Washington - dictated upon death that he be layed out for three days before being buried, just to make sure he was dead (he was extremely terrified of being buried alive).

Vincent Van Gough - reportedly was an "odd child", he threw many temper tantrums, was blunt in his speaking, then tapped into his artistic side when he was an adult age 27.

Bill Gates and Mozart - are also on the list of having Autistic traits.

Look what these incredible men did for our society. They all changed our world we live in! All have different ways of learning and all were extremely intelligent. They made huge impacts in spite of having this disability. Now this gives me hope that my child is capable and will do something extraordinary in his lifetime!

What is Aspergers Syndrome Disorder?

Aspergers Syndrome Disorder is a lesser form of Autism, it is a neurological disorder. The recognition of Autism has been around for many many years however , it has just been since the 1990's since Aspergers has been recognized as a diagnosis. Unfortunately to date there is no definitive brain imaging or laboratory tests to make diagnosis. Generally checklists and observations are made of behaviors so psychologists can make a diagnosis.
In my blogs I will describe the many symptoms and characteristics of my son with Aspergers. I will also describe
how it impacts our family, things that are and are not working for us.

Meet My Son, Jacob.

Jacob is 12 years old. He is just full of life! Always
going from one activity to another, it is tiring just watching him. He is a rock collector and never lets a stick just lay on the ground. Jacob has a HUGE imagination, you can find him creating something usually out of paper and tape or outside discovering. Jacob loves music: singing and discovering instruments. He often begs me to visit the book store or library and look for books about Egypt, gladiators, space, or history. It
would be Jacob's choice to pick up a bottle of disappearing ink, a pair of
funny glasses and a magic trick kit if were at a toy store. He loves to swim, especially loves the computer and video games. Jake will try anything once and loves to make people laugh.

Both academically and maturity speaking, Jake is behind. I would say maybe 3 years. It seems like every year, he seems to fall more behind . Science and social studies are his favorite subjects. Math and Writing are his least favorites. He has just finished 6th grade in a mainstreamed public school, but I do not believe this is to his advantage. At the present time, he is on the waiting list to attend Burger School of Autism in Garden City Michigan.

Jacob has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. This diagnosis was made by a Neuropsychologist at U of M in January of 2007, while Jacob was in 4th grade. Previous to that, his Pediatrician gave him a diagnosis of ADHD and ADD while he was in 1st grade.

Jacob also suffers severely from depression, anxiety, and OCD and possibly bipolar disorder. Besides his mental disabilities, Jake also
has a degenerative eye disease called RETINOSCHESIS, found when he was just a toddler. In the left eye, Jake can see just light and shadows, and has varied limited site in his right eye. Vision could remain the same or deteriorate at any time. Unfortunately his prognosis is unknown and his condition remains guarded.

How I Found Out

It was pieces of a puzzle that I had to put together, not knowing anything about learning disorders or mental disabilities. It definitely wasn't an easy diagnosis -it took years for us to determine if there was anything wrong at all. Sometimes I thought I was just looking too close, or making a big thing out of small, (however it really wasn't small at all). I just kept pressing on, making lists and recording his off behaviors wanting to get to the bottom of it.

Let me go backwards. His birth was a total normal vaginal delivery. He was born a few weeks ahead of schedule and at the time I was high risk pregnancy because my blood pressure was high. However he was born 6 pounds 13 ounces and appeared very healthy. One more small thing, the umbilical cord was tied in two knots, but that's nothing to be alarmed with I was told.

Looking back when Jacob was a baby, he barely took naps or slept well at night which was exhausting for me. He was a very active baby, I was constantly keeping him out of trouble it seemed. I think his favorite toy before he could walk was this hand-held toy with small spinning colored lights. I remember the batteries for the darn thing drained very quickly and Jake would throw a fit when the lights stopped flashing and spinning. One thing as a toddler I observed, he would play with toys differently for example he would sit in the back of a plastic dump truck instead of rolling it on the ground. He would eat the chalk instead of drawing with it. He seemed like a happy baby and toddler however he had terrible temper tantrums. Jake continued to develop meeting all the usual milestones: sitting up, first words, walking, etc.

I began noticing Jake was a little different from his other peers when he was 3 and 4 in preschool years. He was mostly on his own and did not want to interact with the other children. He often refused to participate in the "project of the day" with the teacher, not interested in story- time, or other basic learning activities like counting, or even drawing. For me at the time, bells were not going off that something was wrong, I was thinking that Jacob was just a high energy kid and a little quirky.

I recall within the first few days in Kindergarten, Jake's teacher was very upset when he ate some glue during a class art project. I just kinda laughed to myself. She complained during the school year that he would not color in the lines,did not follow directions most of the time, and not seem interested in participating in the class, most of the time in a day dream. A disability was never brought up, just that he was being difficult and uncooperative. At the time, I was not happy with that particular teacher and her teaching abilities. I felt she was too stiff and needed to think out of the box to reach Jake.

Into first grade, Jake could not seem like he could keep up with the others and seemed so unfocused and fidgety. That's when I brought it up to my Pediatrician and he came up with the ADD/ADHD diagnosis. More problems at school continued and I felt the ADD/ADHD diagnosis wasn't the whole story. The teachers could not give me any insight on how to proceed or any advice. I knew Jacob had more issues to be dealt with but I did not know how to define these symptoms I was observing, if that makes any sense. I didn 't know if it was Jacobs personality or a disorder of sort. Something in my gut told me something was wrong.

I spent hours on the computer researching on the Internet, I also asked tons of questions to teachers, caregivers, and other parents. I purchased different books about child development,
teaching children, and learning disabilities. As per my request, I had the school district test Jacob for any kind of learning disorders, which resulted in his being a little below grade level, but nothing else. I first had him tested while in Kindergarten, then again in 2nd grade. One of the greatest blessings that even came upon me was a new friendship with another school parent. She shared with me that one of her children had Aspergers Syndrome Disorder. After talking about our children and comparing their behaviors, my friend told me how I should proceed and led me to a neuropsychologist for testing. That's when the diagnosis came about of Aspergers Syndrome Disorder. I was mostly relieved when that happened, as I knew then that I was not being just an over protective or slightly crazy parent . Believe it or not, I was happy to finally receive a label for Jacob. This was toward the end of Jacobs 3rd grade school year.

Characteristics of Someone with Aspergers

Following are a list of some symptoms and characteristics that are common with Aspergers kids, although there are many, many more. Please note not all people with Aspergers have the same set of characteristics, and these are only things that my child has experienced so far.

  • trouble sleeping (ever since he was an infant, he would never tire)

  • disorganized/looses things/poor executive skills

  • not understanding and expressing proper emotions / feelings (does not know what to do with them)

  • trouble with change and transitions (needs routines)

  • memory problems

  • gets confused easily

  • compromised self control, impulsive

  • cannot communicate in a complex way

  • no emotion - too much emotion (does not know what is appropriate and when)

  • extremely sensitive to smells, clothing, lighting, vision, hearing, touch (sensory processing disorder)

  • gets bored easily

  • does not understand what others need

  • thinks things are funny when others do not

  • misses meanings of conversations/certain words/jokes

  • does not use language and some words appropriately

  • does not use body language well

  • does not read body language well/social cue's

  • poor at sports, clumsy

  • poor handwriting, and drawing, fine motor

  • anxiety, depression

  • mood swings

  • hard to tell me - what happened

  • does not learn from mistakes

  • poor eye contact

  • does not understand when people are joking

  • takes things literally, thinks concrete

  • sentences are cut off, thoughts are scattered

  • hears words differently

  • perceives words differently

  • uses loud tone of voice/shouting

  • ADHD / ADD / focus issues

  • repeats certain phrases over and over and does not necessarily understand them

  • slower attention shifting

  • slower or delayed thinking reactions

  • gets along better with adults than his own peers

  • socially and emotionally immature

  • interrupts people

  • easy target for others for bullying and teasing

  • does not have good character assessment of others

  • unaware of social codes of conduct with peers

  • class policeman at school

  • difficulty multi-tasking
  • brutally honest, does not know when white lies are acceptable
  • physical tics (blinking, turning of head, eye rolling)
  • obsessive compulsive